We asked our members and supporters to share the story of a woman that they admire. The following entry is written by Mabel Duran-Sanchez, LWVNJ’s spring intern.
While reading an excerpt from The Feminine Mystique for my Cold War History class last semester, I began to admire its author, Betty Friedan. Her criticism of the romanticized image of femininity, or “the feminine mystique,” is considered as the spark that ignited the “second wave” of the feminist movement in the 1960s.
In The Feminine Mystique, Friedan challenged the assumption that American women of that era wanted to be nothing but perfect housewives and mothers. She argued that the post-World War II American society pushed women back into the home sphere after some emancipation, and tried to reinforce the stereotypical ideas of women as housewives, mothers, and lovers—something that was at odds with their inner desires for fulfillment.
I could not help but to think of my mother and wonder, was my own mother a victim of the “feminine mystique?” My mother has always told me that she chose to become a homemaker. However, since my sister and I moved out of our house, I began to notice her discontent. With my sister and I gone, she admitted to feeling like she had nothing productive to do. She, now more than ever, encourages us to pursue our educational and professional aspirations, and most importantly, to fulfill ourselves first.
In part, Friedan rejected the “feminine mystique” from personal experience. She, like my mother now, felt that there was more to life than raising a family. Friedan’s stance against mainstream society awakened women all over America and helped them to realize that they were not alone. Because of Friedan, women began to see themselves differently; they recognized that they were not abnormal if they had desires and goals that went beyond the boundaries of their homes.
I admire Friedan’s courage. She publicly rejected the cultural norms of her time and challenged the mainstream assumptions of what it was to be a woman. In essence, Friedan liberated women all across America who had fallen prisoners to their role as housewives, mothers, and lovers. It is because of women like Friedan that we enjoy the lives we live today.